The Mill on the Floss By George Eliot Summary and Analysis Book 5: Wheat and Tares: Chapter 4 - Another Love-Scene

Summary

It is April nearly a year later. Maggie is returning a book to Philip in the Red Deeps. She tells him she disliked the book because the fair-haired heroine once again won away all the love from the dark woman. She says she wants to avenge all the "dark unhappy ones." Philip tells her that perhaps she will do so by carrying away all the love from her cousin Lucy, who "is sure to have some handsome young man of St. Ogg's at her feet now."

Maggie does not like to have her nonsense applied to anything real, and she would never be Lucy's rival. She says she is not jealous for herself, but for "unhappy people," and she always takes the side of the "rejected lover." Philip asks if she would reject one herself, and when she playfully says she might if he were conceited, he asks her to suppose it were someone who "had nothing to be conceited about," who loved her and was happy to see her at rare moments.

Maggie, aware that he is declaring his love, falls silent. Philip asks her to forget what he has said, but she says that though she has never thought of him as a lover, she does love him. However, she asks that no more be said about it lest it "lead to evil." He tells her their love can overcome any obstacle and he reminds her of her long-ago promise to kiss him. She does so now; but Philip is still not content, for Maggie seems unhappy. She reminds him that she can never injure her father and that they can never be more than friends. As they part she fears she has unintentionally hurt Philip. She tells him she should like "never to part, [in] one of those dangerous moments when speech is at once sincere and deceptive," when feeling is at a height not reached again.

Analysis

Once again the relationship of Maggie and Philip contains something prophetic of later events. She says she is "determined to read no more books where the blond-haired women carry away all the happiness . . . I want to avenge . . . the dark unhappy ones." She is offended when Philip applies this to her cousin Lucy; but this becomes one of those instances when she later drifts into a situation which is contrary to her best resolutions because she lacks the foresight to consider practical results.

It is made clear that Maggie's love for Philip is real to her, but not permanent. "It was one of those dangerous moments . . . when feeling, rising high above its average depth, leaves flood-marks which are never reached again." (Note the river image.) This prepares for her later abandonment of Philip. Even now, there is something uncomfortable in the relationship. Maggie "stooped her tall head to kiss the pale face that was full of pleading, timid love — like a woman's." This reversal of roles appears almost unnatural, and the author later makes Stephen's masculine strength come as a relief.

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